The famous Louvre museum in Paris
Paris is full of top tourist attractions and famous sights and is up there as one of the must-visit cities in the world. You'd be forgiven for wandering whether it will match up to the hype. I was one of those people, and let me tell you that I loved Paris!
Paris is a fabulous city and there are so many beautiful things to see and places to experience, whether you have 1 day, 2 days or 4 days. I've put together Paris' must-see sights (in my opinion) to give you a list of the top things to do during your stay in Paris.
Visiting Paris on a budget? Check out my post on how to explore Paris on a budget, and read how much I spent, here
15 must-see places to visit and things to do on your first trip to Paris
If you're visiting Paris for the first time, make sure you check out these 15 must-see places and things to do in Paris to make the most out of your trip.
1. Walk along the River Seine
The River Seine is one of Paris' most famous landmarks and strolling along the river is a must-do experience when in Paris. The River Seine runs through the centre of Paris, but I would recommend starting at Pont Neuf (close to the Notre Dame Cathedral) and following the river towards the Eiffel Tower, passing the Louvre along the way. This part of the river is great because you can detour and see so many of Paris' main attractions. Or, if you prefer, simply enjoy the riverside stroll and go back to the sights later!
Walking along Paris' River Seine as it changes from day to night is pretty special...
2. Visit The Louvre
The Louvre museum is one of Paris' most famous tourist attractions. It is the world's second-largest art museum and best known for housing the famous Mona Lisa painting. If you want to visit inside the gallery, you will need to book your ticket in advance.
Even if you don't want to go inside the museum, it is still worth visiting to see the famous glass pyramid of the Louvre and the grand buildings that surround it. This is one of the most iconic photo spots in Paris - just be sure to arrive early to take advantage of fewer crowds.
The Pyramid and grand buildings of The Louvre, in Paris
3. Relax in one of Paris' prettiest parks - the Jardin des Tuileries
Paris has many beautiful parks where you can relax, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the Jardin des Tuileries is one of the most beautiful spots in Paris. Once you've visited The Louvre, head towards the 'Place du Carousel', where there is a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe and continue into the Jardins des Tuileries.
On a sunny day, these manicured gardens are the perfect place to rest your feet or grab some lunch at one of the cafes. The Jardin des Tuilieries are also a great choice if you're tight on time, as they are conveniently positioned between The Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, and alongside the River Seine.
The Jardin des Tuileries are one of Paris' prettiest gardens
4. Visit the famous Eiffel Tower
This is an obvious one, but you cannot visit Paris without visiting its most famous landmark! If you don't want to pay to go up the Eiffel Tower, it can be enjoyed just as much from ground level. The area right underneath the Eiffel Tower is very busy, with street vendors and souvenir sellers, but there is more space in the Champs de Mars - a large landscaped park sat behind the Eiffel Tower.
If you visit the Eiffel tower during the day, try to get back in the evening, it's really spectacular lit up at night.
The Eiffel tower from day to night
5. Check out the best photo spots of the Eiffel Tower
One of the best places to get a good photograph of the Eiffel Tower is from the Pont d'lena - the bridge which crosses over the River Seine. This spot is particularly magical at night. Another great photo spot is from the Jardins du Trocadero, a small park with fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower. My favourite photo spot was sat along the River Seine on the opposite side of the river. From here you can see both the Eiffel Tower and also the Pont l'ena and it's not as busy as the bridge.
6. See Paris' famous Notre-Dame Cathedral
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of Paris' most beautiful buildings. Sadly, a large part of the Cathedral was badly damaged in a fire in 2019, whilst the spire was being restored. This unfortunately means that visitors can no longer go inside the cathedral, however, the front towers still remain and are a great spectacle. There are also large educational boards to show what the Cathedral originally looked like and explain the restoration process. Despite the ongoing restoration, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is still one of Paris' must-see attractions.
The Notre-Dame Cathderal, Paris
7. Wander Paris' trendy Latin Quarter
Paris has so many great neighbourhoods, perfect for strolling around, the Latin Quarter is one of Paris' most 'trendy' neighbourhoods. If you are in Paris for a few days and you have a little more time, I would really recommend taking some time to wander this area.
After visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral, I would highly recommend spending some time wandering the area to the South of the Cathedral. Also known as the 5th arrondissement, the Latin Quarter is full of quaint narrow streets, boutiques and book shops. The Sorbonne University is also in this area, hence the trendy cafe-vibe. Whilst you’re here, check out the Pantheon. There's a fee to enter the vast, church-like building, where you can pay respects to some of the notable men and women buried there, such as Marie-Curie and Voltaire.
Wandering around the streets of Paris' Latin Quarter
The Pantheon in Paris' Latin Quarter
8. Visit one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris - the Jardin du Luxembourg
It's a tight contest for the title of Paris' most beautiful garden, but in my opinion, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the winner. On the edge of the Latin Quarter, and not far from the Pantheon, these manicured gardens of the 17th century Palais du Luxembourg are the perfect place to stop and pull up a chair to watch the world go by.
Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris' most beautiful gardens
9. Have a sunset picnic on the banks of the River Seine
The River Seine is a great place to be at any time of the day, but as the sun sets, the atmosphere changes slightly and it becomes even more full of life. The cafes that line the river evolve into cocktail bars and the music turns up as the night draws in. Local Parisians arrive at the river armed with a beer or a bottle of wine to enjoy with baguettes and crudites for a sunset picnic. It really is a great atmosphere and the sunsets over the river are beautiful. In the summer months, this is one of my top recommendations for things to do in Paris, particularly if you have a couple of days in the city.
Watching the sun set over the River Seine, Paris
10. Spend an afternoon in Paris’ prettiest neighbourhood, Montmartre
Montmartre has earned the crown as Paris’ prettiest neighbourhood and it's not hard to see why. Montmartre has a distinctly different feel to the rest of Paris - the cobbled streets with quaint houses and cute cafes feel almost village-like, and that's because, up until 1860, it was its own village, completely separate from the city of Paris! Montmartre was known as a hub for artists in Paris and that is reflected in the galleries and the many street artists.
Some of the most beautiful spots in Montmartre include the famous La Moulin de la Galette, a French restaurant housed in an old mill. La Maison Rose is also a popular spot - perhaps one of the most instagrammable photo spots in Montmartre. The pretty pink restaurant sits at the top of the equally pretty Rue de l'Abreuvoir.
Even if you are short on time, I would highly recommend a quick visit to Montmartre - it is definitely one of Paris' best places to see. For more tips on visiting Montmartre, check out my post, here.
Wandering around the pretty streets of Montmartre
11. Visit the Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre
The most well-known attraction in Montmartre is the Sacre-Coeur, a domed basilica sat on the hilltop, overlooking the city of Paris. Admission inside the basilica is free, whether you would like to take prayer, light a candle or just admire the domed ceiling. During the day, the grassy hill at the base of the Sacre-Coeur is a great place to sit and have a coffee and enjoy the view. This is one of the best spots in Paris to watch the sunset, so if you visit in the evening, expect to be joined by lots of other people watching as the sunsets over the city.
If you only have one evening to see the sunset - I personally would recommend sitting along the River Seine - it felt less crowded and more enjoyable by the river than at the Sacre-Coeur.
The Sacre-Coeur and the view of Paris from Montmartre Mound
12. Visit the Marais District
Also known as the 4th arrondissement, the Marais district is known for trendy boutiques, cafes and galleries. If you like historic buildings and quaint streets, then it's definitely worth spending some time wandering through this area. Notable places are the Place du Vosgues - a small grassy courtyard surrounded by high-end arcades and Le Village Saint-Paul, a small area to the South of the district, comprising of 5 courtyards and cobbled streets, mostly housing art galleries, antique shops and vintage and design boutiques.
Wandering around the Marais District
13. Spend an afternoon in Buttes-Chaumont park
In the northeast of Paris, this is the 5th largest park in the city and it’s a great place to come if you want to feel like you are out of the city for an hour or two. Parts of the park are set upon a hill, giving you glimpses of the Paris skyline between the trees. There’s also a circular lake which you can walk around and a couple of cafes to grab a drink or ice cream.
If you have 3 or 4 days in Paris, this is a great park to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Buttes-Chaumont park, Paris
14. See the Arc de Triomphe
When I visited Paris in September 2021, The Arc de Triomphe was covered in cages and partially draped. I later found out that it was because the whole monument was due to be completed covered as part of an art installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, entitled 'wrapped'). This was a bit of a shame, but to be honest, if you are visiting in the middle of the day it is virtually impossible to get a clear photo of the Arc de Triomphe due to the traffic circulating around it anyway. If you are desperate to get really good photos of the Arc de Triomphe, you will need to arrive very early. It is one of Paris' most famous sights, but if you only have 1 or 2 days in Paris, I would say skip this in favour of one of the more spectacular sights.
The Arc de Triomphe
(The cages and drapes were to get ready for an art installation by
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, entitled 'wrapped')
15. Walk the most famous street in Paris - the Champs-Elysees
I almost didn't add this to the list, but depending on what you enjoy, it might be right up your 'street', so I’ve included it with my honest opinion…
Perhaps one of the most famous roads in Paris, the Champs-Elysees is where all the major designer brands call home, so if you're looking for some high-end retail therapy, this is your place.
We walked up the Champs-Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe and to be honest, I didn't get the hype. It's just a busy road with shops. It's not particularly pretty or special in any way. So if you're not bothered about visiting the designer shops, I would say, skip this. On the other hand, if you love designer shopping, this will be the perfect street for you!
Best way to get to Paris, France
There are three main ways to get to Paris - by train, plane or car:
By train - Train is one of the most convenient ways to get to Paris as it brings you right to the centre of the city. From here, connections to the rest of the city and suburbs are easy, particularly if you busy a Paris Visitor Pass.
By plane - The Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is a large international airport. From here, you can easily get a direct train to the city centre (this is much faster than a taxi)
By car - Whilst I wouldn't advise taking a car to Paris, we visited at the start of a 3 month road trip round Europe, so we had our car with us. As long as you only drive into the suburbs, you will be fine. Our hotel in zone 2/3 had secure parking that was only €6 per night, which was a bargain. Just make sure that you have a Crit Air sticker if you are driving in the city centre.
How much will it cost to visit Paris?
As with anything budget-related, how much you spend in Paris really does depend on what activities you do, the type of accommodation you choose and also how often you eat out. You can read what I spent for 4 nights in Paris, in my post here, as well as get some tips on making your money go further in Paris.
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